BUDAPEST, Hungary -- No.1 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia and unseeded Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium both had quick victories to advance to the Hungarian Ladies Open final on Saturday.
Cibulkova, the 2014 Australian Open finalist and former World No.4, dispatched Germany's Mona Barthel, 6-3, 6-2, to open the day's play. Van Uytvanck followed with a 6-4, 6-2 win over lucky loser Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia.
In their first meeting, Cibulkova raced past Barthel to move into her first final of the year without having dropped a set in all four of her matches so far. “I’m getting better and better each match, and I’m happy with my performance," Cibulkova told the press afterwards. "I’m just getting more confident, really, playing on this court, and I’m just enjoying to be here.”
Throughout the encounter, Cibulkova used her powerful groundstrokes off of both wings to keep Barthel from using her own solid shots to get a foothold in the match. The 2016 WTA Finals champion was also excellent on serve, winning nearly 80 percent of points on her first service, and saving three of four break points.
“When I play my best tennis, when I have the right mindset, I just go for every single ball," Cibulkova continued. "[Barthel] is a big hitter, and I was able to over-hit her today with my smart game.”
After surviving a long game on her serve to hold for 2-1, Cibulkova became the beneficiary of consecutive double faults by Barthel at the end of the next game to take the first break advantage and lead 3-1.
Two holds at love brought the Slovak to 5-2, and a winner down the line gave her two set points in that game. However, good serves and a backhand winner by Barthel allowed the German to hold for 5-3 and force Cibulkova to serve out the set. But, again, Cibulkova was top-notch on serve, and held at love for the third consecutive time to close out the opening frame.
The top seed did not let up as the second set commenced, and she broke the Barthel serve immediately to take a quick lead. Barthel, though, was not done yet, as she leveled the set at 2-2, claiming her lone break of the match.
But Cibulkova dominated from that point forward. A service return winner led the Slovak to quickly reclaim the one-break advantage and lead 3-2. Cibulkova once again was strong on serve to hold at love for 4-2, and her huge forehands were too overwhelming for Barthel on the day, leading to another break for Cibulkova.
Cibulkova calmly served out the match after 77 minutes, leading her to a fourth straight-set win in Budapest and her first WTA final since the Connecticut Open in New Haven last year.
Van Uytvanck also breezed through her match, cruising past 19-year-old Kuzmova in 68 minutes and advancing into the second WTA singles final of her career. The Belgian was stellar on serve, winning 78 percent of her first serve points and hitting eight aces in the match.
“The difference on the big points, I was there, I was aggressive, and my serve also helped me," van Uytvanck told the media after the match. "So I’m really happy.”
Kuzmova was broken in the first game of the match, and van Uytvanck used that to leap to a 3-1 lead, but the Slovakian teenager broke back for 3-3, as she aimed to become the first lucky loser to reach a final since CoCo Vandeweghe at Stanford in 2012.
But Kuzmova dropped serve in a 13-point game to give van Uytvanck a 5-4 lead, and the Belgian, who won her first WTA singles title in Quebec City last year, clinched the set on her first set point after Kuzmova pushed a backhand unforced error into the net.
Van Uytvanck rolled through the second set untroubled. She broke Kuzmova for 1-0, then hit three consecutive aces to hold at love for 2-0. The frustrated Slovak then dropped serve at love, handing van Uytvanck a 3-0 lead which felt insurmountable.
Kuzmova had a chance in the next game, grasping four break points as van Uytvanck started to misfire off the forehand wing. But the Belgian staved all four off, eventually holding serve for 4-0 with another ace.
Kuzmova put up a brave challenge in the last few games, as her serve and forehand picked up steam, but van Uytvanck experienced no issues in her final service games, smoothly closing the match out to set up a championship match date with Cibulkova.
“Like always, I will have to serve well," said van Uytvanck, regarding the final. "I have to be aggressive, and just give everything I have, and we will see. [Cibulkova's] a tough opponent...but I don’t have anything to lose. I have another final tomorrow and I’m really happy, so we will see what happens.”